Though passed, tougher road traffic act never brought into force

Although both Houses of Parliament passed amendments in 2020 to the Road Traffic Act to lengthen jail time and toughen fines for people who kill while driving dangerously or recklessly, the amended legislation was never brought into force, Attorney General Ryan Pinder confirmed yesterday.

Pinder said, “Apparently, it was gazetted but a date to bring it into force was never provided and decided upon.”

He added, “This is being actioned now by our government.”

It is unclear why the bill was never brought into force.

The Nassau Guardian sought clarity on the status of the bill after Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans called for stiffer penalties for reckless drivers who kill.

Last week, she fined a man $20,000 and revoked his license for five years after he pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of Eulona and Brent Johnson through dangerous driving on Christmas Day 2020. Their daughters were injured in that accident.

She said the fines she imposed were the maximum sentence according to the law.

The Minnis administration introduced The Road Traffic (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2019, to crush the perception that traffic fatalities do not deserve stiff penalties.

The bill states that it “shall come into force on such date as the minister may appoint by notice in the gazette”. 

In this case, the minister is the minister responsible for road traffic. At the time the bill was passed, Renward Wells was minister of transport.

The bill was passed in the House of Assembly on July 16, 2020, and in the Senate on July 20, 2020, according to the records of Parliament.

Wells told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that as far as he knew, the appointed day notice was gazetted. 

Former Attorney General Carl Bethel had no comment when contacted.

Wells was sworn in as minister of health, following Dr. Duane Sands’ resignation, on July 20, 2020.

Dion Foulkes was appointed minister of transport and local government. 

When contacted yesterday, current Minister of Transport JoBeth Coleby-Davis said the government intends to rectify the matter.

“What I can say is that we are fully aware of the situation and wish to provide the needed advancements to the legislation, which will enable the magistrate to have full sentencing powers in these unfortunate situations,” she said.

“As such, my ministry and the Office of the Attorney General had a Zoom call this morning to discuss completion and they are working to ensure that the necessary amendment comes to fruition as soon as possible.”

The Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019, increases penalties for people convicted of killing in the course of reckless driving that could result in prison sentences of up to 15 years for offenders.

It changes the name of the offense to vehicular manslaughter and adds new maximum prison times for various scenarios.

Under the bill, a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter by dangerous driving could be liable to a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Under the current law, the penalty for manslaughter by dangerous driving is a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, or imprisonment for a term of four years; or both.

Under the amendment bill, a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The bill also provides that a person who is convicted of vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while driving without a valid license, or driving an uninsured vehicle, or allowing a passenger to ride in the vehicle without wearing a seat belt, could face up to five years in prison.

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.

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